Saturday, 6 May 2017

Knowing how to die

As I prepare to move in 2017 to what I assume will be the last parishes in which I’ll serve, I’ve been thinking of the first one in which I did so; I completed my 'training curacy' there in 1988.

The Parish of Caversham and Mapledudham (as it was then configured) was mainly in Reading and partly in rural south Oxfordshire.  In each of the last two weeks the Church Times has carried an obituary of one of the parishioners of the time.

Ted Boulding was a frail retired Reader in the mid-1980s, and I only saw his daughter Rachel fleetingly as she passed through when at home from University from time to time.  A dozen years later we shared Caversham memories in the refectory at the University of York when I was a member of General Synod and she helping produce the new Common Worship publications.  A similar time later I submitted an article to the Church Times and it was she who edited and placed it.  Among things published herself have been recent level headed and faithful reflection for the Bible Reading Fellowship on her own approaching early death from cancer.

John Madeley was a vigorous active Reader at the same time, but his primary vocation was as a journalist and writer on things like fair trade and international agricultural development.  The obituary quotes him from the 1970s writing ‘a church which ties up its best people in its own internal affairs deserves all that is coming to it’.  He remained in Caversham and my encounters with him since leaving there have all been in newspapers and on the radio as he continued to publish and broadcast, living into his 80s.

Rachel’s obituary says that a padded envelope arrived at the Church Times a few days before she died containing an individually written card for every member of staff.  John’s says that his cardboard coffin was taken out of St Peter’s, Caversham at the end of his funeral as the congregation sang the Taize chorus ‘Bless the Lord, my soul, and bless God’s holy name – bless the Lord, my soul, who leads me into life’.  So it turns out the parishioners from the parish in which I completed my training are still teaching me both how to live and how to die thirty years after being there.

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